Buying a motorbike? Get to know the seven basic types

Buying a motorbike? Get to know the seven basic types

Monday, 30 March 2009 11:02 AM

Buying a motorbike? Get to know the seven basic types

Buying a motorbike? Get to know the seven basic types

Know your mopeds from your nakeds with's guide to the different types of motorbike

If you're sick of sitting in the car in gridlocked traffic, or fed up with unreliable and expensive public transport, you may be considering two wheels as the way forward. But if you don't know anything about motorbikes, here's a quick guide to the basic types available.

The Seven Main Types of Motorbike

1. Sports Bikes

The most popular motorbike class, sports bikes have fast and powerful engines, sharp styling and handling, and aerodynamic fairings. Dominated by Japanese giants Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha, other makes include Ducati (Italy) and Triumph (good old Blighty).

As sports bikes are built for speed and have blistering acceleration, novice riders should be extremely careful if opting for one of these as your first ride. As you might expect, bike insurance in this class is generally more expensive than in other classes.

The most popular sports bike in the UK is the Honda CBR 600, now in its 22nd year of production.

2. Scooters

The next most popular class is scooters. Once only popular with niche enthusiasts such as Mods with their vintage Italian Vespas and Lambrettas, scooters exploded in popularity in the mid 1990s. Reasons for the boom were increased frustration at urban gridlock, cheap running costs, and the advent of desirable new models from the Japanese firms and Italian maker, Piaggio.

Scooters tend to have smaller, less powerful engines (though bigger engines are becoming more and more popular), and are more affordable than bigger bikes. Also, scooter insurance is often considerably cheaper than sports bike insurance.

3. Mopeds

Mopeds are small-engine bikes (max 50cc) that also use pedal power to drive the chain. Surprisingly, this means they also fall under the category of hybrid vehicles (defined as a vehicle with two modes of power – one conventional and one unconventional). As mopeds have such low power, motorcycle cover can be very cheap.

4. Naked bikes

The term 'naked' refers to road bikes without a fairing to obscure the engine and frame, and little or no fairing over the handlebars. However, not all bikes without fairings are naked bikes. Exceptions include custom bikes, off roaders and adventure sport bikes. Naked bikes are often un-faired sports bikes or modern bikes with a retro 70's styling.

5. Custom/Cruisers

For all you wannabe Easy Riders, cruisers are most easily described by one evocative and legendary brand name, Harley Davidson. Typically, cruisers have low seats, long wheel bases, loads of chrome, and most importantly, a laid-back attitude.

Harley's aren't the only game in town though, with Japanese bikes able to provide that custom look for a lot less cash (but also less heritage). Other cruiser makers include Italian firm Moto Guzzi and BMW.

Some cruisers, such as the massive Kawasaki VN2000, have larger engines than even mid-size cars, and are definitely not recommended for bikers who've just removed their stabilisers.

6. Adventure sport

Think of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in Long Way Round. Used by bikers who want to ride both on and off road, these endurance machines often have larger luggage compartments and petrol tanks for long distance trekking. A tall profile and upright riding position means good visibility over the car in front and also makes the rider highly visible to other cars. King of this class is the huge BMW RG1200, a veritable Hummer of motorcycles.

7. Touring motorcycles

If you're going to be travelling long distances, these mile munchers could be for you. Built for on-road comfort and continent-cruising ability, many tourers have large windscreens, generous luggage capacity, plush seats, driver/passenger intercom, and heated handlebar grips. Also, some even have reverse gears to help move their massive weight out of tight parking spots (such as the 1500cc and 1800cc Honda Goldwing).

Of course, motorbike classes can be subdivided further (e.g. naked sports, classic bikes, sports touring) but the above should give you a general feel for the types available.

One more thing, whether you're brand new to two wheels, a born-again biker, or you've been riding for years, please travel carefully and always stay safe. Here are some motorcycle safety tips.